VFW Action Corps Weekly – May 20, 2016
In This Issue:
- House Advances Bills
- Hearing on Innovative Careers in Technology
- House Passes Amendment for Blue Water Navy Benefits
- Congress Advances VA Appropriations Bills
- New Army Secretary Sworn In
- MIA Update
- House Advances Bills: On Wednesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a markup to advance several pieces of legislation. These included bills that would permanently authorize the Veterans’ Success on Campus program, which provides counseling and benefits assistance to student veterans; the VA Health Center Management Stability and Improvement Act, which would require VA to develop and carry out a plan to hire permanent directors at each VA Medical Center; and a bill that would allow VA to recoup relocation expenses paid to employees when it is found that they did not deserve them. These bills were advanced to the full House for consideration. Stay tuned to the Action Corps Weekly for updates.
- Hearing on Innovative Careers in Technology: On Tuesday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing regarding innovative careers for veterans in technology based fields. During the hearing committee members made sure to focus on discussing not just tech-savvy, younger veterans, but also older generations of veterans interested in technology based careers. In attendance were leaders and policy makers from Microsoft, Amazon, NS2 Serves and Uber, whose companies have been making great efforts to hire more veterans. The VFW praises companies who offer innovative technology employment opportunities for veterans. To view the hearing, click here: http://veterans.house.gov/hearing/veterans-in-tech-innovative-careers-for-all-generations-of-veterans.
- House Passes Amendment for Blue Water Navy Benefits: An amendment to the House-passed version of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bill would extend presumptive service connection for conditions associated with Agent Orange exposure to Blue Water Navy Vietnam veterans. Currently, only those Vietnam veterans who were “boots on the ground” or served on the inland waterways are eligible for the presumption. This would mean eligibility for health care and compensation for thousands of veterans. The inclusion of the amendment came on the heels of a Washington, D.C. press conference organized by its sponsor, Representative Chris Gibson (R-NY), and attended by the VFW. The passage of this amendment is a major victory, as the VFW has long advocated that Blue Water Navy veterans should be eligible for presumptive exposure to Agent Orange. Still, the amendment must pass the Senate. Be on the lookout for an Action Alert on this issue next week, and feel free to begin contacting your Senators today to let them know that this is a top priority! To read the Military Times article about the amendment, click here: http://www.militarytimes.com/story/veterans/2016/05/19/house-votes-expand-benefits-vietnam-blue-water-navy-vets/84602742/.
- Congress Advances VA Appropriations Bills: On Thursday, the House of Representatives and the Senate advanced their respective Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bills for fiscal year (FY) 2017. Both bills fall short of the Administration and the Independent Budget’s request for veterans programs, specifically for VA’s FY2017 construction accounts and advance appropriations for FY2018. Both bills increase funding from FY2016 levels and the Senate’s version nearly matches the Administration’s request, but the House bill falls $1.5 billion short of the $75 billion VA said it needs for health care, benefits, cemetery operations, construction and other discretionary spending programs. Both bills include language to authorize VA providers to discuss the use of medical marijuana with VA patients. The Senate bill includes a provision that would expand fertility treatments VA provides veterans who have lost their ability to reproduce due to severe injuries they suffered during military service. However, the Senate failed to adopt an amendment introduced by Senator Grassley (R-IA) to end the wrongful practice of denying veterans who require a fiduciary their second amendment rights. The House bill does include a provision that would expand disability compensation benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans. It is unclear when Congress will discuss or consider a compromise bill, but the VFW urges its members and supporters to contact their members of Congress to ensure these three important provisions are included in a final compromise bill.
- New Army Secretary Sworn In: On Wednesday, Eric Fanning was sworn in as the 22nd secretary of the Army during a small Pentagon ceremony after being confirmed by the Senate a day earlier. Fanning’s previous Pentagon positions include being deputy undersecretary of the Navy, acting secretary of the Air Force, and chief of staff to Defense Secretary Ash Carter. He defines his new job as making sure the Army recruits the best, trains them properly, equips them with what they need to do the job right, and to get them home. Read more at: https://www.army.mil/article/168207/Fanning_takes_oath_as_22nd_Secretary_of_Army/.
- MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has announced the identification of remains of five American service members who had been missing in action since World War II. Being returned home for burial with full military honors are:
— Navy Chief Storekeeper Herbert J. Hoard, 36, and Seaman 2nd Class Dale F. Pearce, 21, had been missing since Dec. 7, 1941, when the battleship USS Oklahoma they were aboard suffered multiple torpedo hits and capsized as it was moored off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Hoard will be buried May 21 in his hometown of DeSoto, Mo., and Pearce will be buried May 26 in his hometown of Dennis, Kan. Learn more about their individual recovery and identifications at: http://www.dpaa.mil/NewsStories/NewsReleases/tabid/10159/Article/757870/uss-oklahoma-sailor-from-world-war-ii-accounted-for-hoard.aspx and http://www.dpaa.mil/NewsStories/NewsReleases/tabid/10159/Article/776446/uss-oklahoma-sailor-from-world-war-ii-accounted-for-pearce.aspx.
— Marine Pfc. Elmer L. Mathies Jr., 21, will be buried May 28 in his hometown of Hereford, Texas. Mathies died Nov. 20, 1943, while fighting the Japanese on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. He was assigned to Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division.
— Army Capt. Elwood J. Euart, 38, of Pawtucket, R.I., died Oct. 26, 1942, died trying to rescue some soldiers who were trapped in a transport ship that struck two mines as it was entering Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. He was assigned to the 103rd Field Artillery Battalion, 43rd Infantry Division. Burial details have yet to be announced.
— Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Donald L. Beals, 21, of Brookings, S.D., was a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot who died April 17, 1945, while on a combat mission near Dresden, Germany. He was assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron, 48th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force. Burial details have yet to be announced.